Year C Palm Sunday Luke 19
When the Cheering Stopped
On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.
The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President's health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.
It's a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.
It happened that way to Jesus. When he emerged on the public scene he was an overnight sensation. He would try to go off to be alone and the people would still follow him. The masses lined the streets as he came into town. On Palm Sunday leafy palm branches were spread before him and there were shouts of Hosanna. In shouting Hosanna they were in effect saying "Save us now" Jesus. Great crowds came to hear him preach. A wave of religious expectation swept the country.
But the cheering did not last for long. There came a point when the tide began to turn against him. Oh, you didn't notice it so much at first. People still came to see him, but the old excitement was missing, and the crowds were not as large as they had been. His critics now began to publicly attack him. That was something new. Earlier they had been afraid to speak out for fear of the masses, but they began to perceive that the fickle public was turning on him. Soon the opposition began to snowball. When they discovered that they could not discredit his moral character, they began to take more desperate measures. Before it was all over a tidal wave welled up that brought Jesus to his knees under the weight of a cross.
Why did the masses so radically turn against him? How did the shouts of Hosanna on Sunday transform into the shouts of crucify him on Friday? I am not just talking about the immediate events that may have brought it about, but the deeper root causes. What were the underlying issues? In five days it all fell apart. Why? That is the issue that I would like for us to concentrate on this morning. Why did the cheering stop?
- Jesus Began to talk more and more about commitment.
- Jesus dared to suggest that all people are worth loving.
- Jesus began to talk more and more about a cross.
His Last Supper
The last week of the life of our Lord, the time that we refer to as Holy Week, was the most significant of his life. For the past three Sundays we have been examining in some detail the events that occurred during that period. This morning I would like to examine Wednesday, the day of transition, and Thursday, the day of fellowship.
Jesus' final week can be divided into three phases. The first two days of the week find the masses in a mood of acceptance and praise. The middle of the week they began to question and challenge. By the end of the week their attitude had completely changed to rejection and crucifixion. Wednesday is the day in between. It is the day I like to refer to as the day of transition. Jesus knew this change was coming. So, on Wednesday he went apart from the crowd to be in meditation and communion with God. He needed to lay hold of the power of God that would enable him to turn defeat into victory.
This scene reminds us that we occasionally need to be free of the things and circumstances that clutter our lives. We need time to clear our heads and be in fellowship with the divine. David Stanley, the New York Times reporter who went to darkest Africa in search of Dr. Livingston, wrote a fascinating biography. He noted that for several days his safari made excellent time, but then, one morning, the porters refused to move at all. He asked the guide what the problem was. It is a native superstition, he replied. They feel that they must stop a day to give their souls a chance to catch up...